The year 2016 has been one of major disappointments (*cough* Election 2016 *cough*), but fans of hip-hop were given an early holiday present with J. Cole’s long-awaited follow-up to 2014 Forest Hills Drive. The rapper revealed the project, 4 Your Eyes Only, a week ago without much fanfare. Yet, controversial singles such as “False Prophets” and “everybody dies” caused quite a stir, as listeners wondered if Cole was taking shots at fellow artists Kanye West, Wale, Lil Yachty, and Lil Uzi Vert on different parts of the two songs. Although neither songs appear on this latest album, there’s still plenty of other J.Cole lyrics for fans to decipher.
The album has 10 featureless tracks, tackling issues ranging from the Black Lives Matter movement to the responsibility of being a new father. Will J. Cole go double platinum once again with no features? Is the album worth the hype? Here’s our track-by-track review by TBG writers Daevon and ElectricSMG to give you the real deal 411.
For whom the bell tolls
ElectricSMG: J. Cole opens singing in a very soulful style on this very stripped-down track mostly consisting of bells. Very nice opener. 7.5/10
Daevon: The intro to this album definitely sets the tone for the entire project. Although the melody is laid back, the bass of the song is one you can still bump to. The lyrics in this song allude to death, and maybe even suicide, which is unusual for J. Cole. 7/10
ElectricSMG: This song delves into the only kind of immortality a human being can have- a legacy. J. Cole expresses that he is caught between being heard in marketability and messaging. 7/10
Daevon: Not my favorite song on the album, but when I listen to this song I do hear the old J. Cole. That can be nice, since we currently live in times where every artist seems to be trying to escape their comfort zones. The song has the same beat throughout, creating a unique texture of heterophony (variations of a single melodic line). 8/10
ElectricSMG: J.Cole’s heart is stuck on someone else’s girl. This track is about a girl uninterested in him because of his “bigger dreams.” She also has a boyfriend who probably isn’t the best for her. A good track, not filler, but not outstanding either. 7/10
Daevon: If you think the sample track behind the lyrics sound familiar, you would be correct! The backing track is from Bryson Tiller’s song Exchange (who sampled it from Swing my way by K.P. and Envyi). The track is smooth and beautiful, and will definitely have you in your feelings. 8/10
ElectricSMG: This track is a call to arms. It’s a call for everyone to wake up- Black people in particular- and to escape the poisonous mentality that plagues a large portion of our community. One of the better songs on this album. 8/10
Daevon: This track is my personal favorite. It is a masterpiece. The overlapping sounds makes this one of the busier songs on the album. The focus of the song is about the loss of Black men in the home due to violence. It features a sample of a child speaking about their father’s death. 10/10
She’s Mine pt. 1
ElectricSMG: This is a nice slow jam that serves as a ‘thank you’ to the woman in J. Cole’s life for supporting and grounding him. It is quite the opposite of what most mainstream hip-hop tracks say about women these days. 6/10
Daevon: She’s Mine shows J. Cole’s depth lyrically. He allows himself to be vulnerable on the topic of love. The singing is a beautiful harmony with simple lyrics. It’s another song that will definitely get you in the feels.
ElectricSMG: This is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It focuses on God more than most mainstream hip-hop has ever done. A deep track, if not the deepest on the album. 8/10
Daevon: This song is much faster than the rest, yet doesn’t feel busy. It’s steady and concise. The track is also more upbeat than the other songs. Listen to this song when you’re going through personal development. It may provide the motivation you need. 8/10
ElectricSMG: This song focuses on J. Cole’s contempt for the fame he has now, as well as how African-Americans can feel like they’re just another statistic when it comes to police brutality. 8/10
Daevon: This song, like the rest, is a lyrical masterpiece. The fast paced rap of J. Cole’s lyrics reminds me of something Eminem would do, just in a much more laid back way. 7.5/10
ElectricSMG: Unlike most of the other tracks, that have instrumentals composed mostly of piano and other jazzy elements, this song starts out with a fuzzy baseline. This is layered with J. Cole speaking about being a dedicated and good partner. He also comments on the two-faced tendencies of people who try to better themselves whilst trying to remain relevant with their peers. 9/10
Daevon: This song takes you back to the time of Motown in a weird modern fashion. The main instruments are clearly bass, guitar, and drums. J. Cole’s tone is actually a little more hype, but the song still goes well with the aesthetic sadness of this album, without the song being sad at all. 9/10
She’s Mine Pt. 2
ElectricSMG: Part two of She’s Mine focuses a bit on major spending holidays not being good for lower income people. Aside from that, this track is just as good as part one, and has almost identical instrumentation. 6.5/10
Daevon: She’s Mine Pt. 2 has the same beat as part one. The one difference is that the backtrack is accompanied by a baby. This song is exactly as it advertises. It’s just She’s Mine Pt. 2 but extended. This is definitely a sad song, and one that isn’t to be listened to in order to get hype. 6/10
ElectricSMG: J. Cole goes out with a bang in this closing track. This nine minute ode to his daughter is one of the most real tracks of the album. It is definitely a good closure song. 8/10
Daevon: The longest song on the album, and the most classic J. Cole. It is heavy, masculine rap, that you can bop your head to. It’s one of the best songs on the album. 10/10
Final verdict: Worth the hype? YES!